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The Crown Prince was only ten years old this year. No matter how steadfast and precocious he was, he was still a child, and as a child, he would make childish mistakes, else he genuinely would turn into a monster.
What Wang Zhi described was, strictly speaking, not that huge of a deal.
Following Virtuous Consort Ji’s death, she had been buried in the imperial tombs, and had a separately-established memorial tablet to offer sacrifices to. However, due to Consort Wan’s hindrance, Dowager Zhou had advised the Crown Prince that it would be best to not frequent that hall much, lest he end up angering the Consort so she does something disadvantageous to him.
Upon the quick approach of his mother’s death anniversary, the Prince had missed her. As he couldn’t go to the side hall, he had secretly set up an incense table in the East Palace to pay respects to her, weeping as he had said some quiet things to her. It had been nothing more than him asking why she had cast him aside and left, a child’s statements of having passed a hard life.
Such was human nature. The Prince’s days were truly oppressive, too; now that his father had more than one child at his knees and was busy with immortal cultivation, alchemy, plus communicating with the State Teacher, he had no spare time to care about the Crown Prince.
Han Zao had died, as had Yuan Liang. There were very few people at the Prince’s side that he was close to, and he wasn’t able go complain to his teachers. If he couldn’t say these words to his mother, then who could he?
However, the speaker had no intentions, while the listener had. The Prince’s private worship and words to his mother had been overheard by someone, who had gone to report to the Consort.
Consort Wan’s eyes and ears were present all over the palace, the Crown Prince’s sides being no exception. In spite of the East Palace being heavily guarded and having many loyalists in it, that hadn’t prevented the Consort from planting people that could eavesdrop on the Prince at any time.
After learning of this, she had become wrathful and fearful, thus going to complain to the Emperor, saying that the Prince had not forgotten his grudge from the death of his mother, his heart was filled with hatred, and he had said a lot of disgraceful things while praying to his mother’s incense table. Were he an ordinary person, this would have been okay, as she would have suffered some wrongs at most, but since that had come from the Crown Prince’s mouth, handing over such a huge country to him really gave one cause for worry.
It had to be said that Consort Wan had now learned to be smart; not only had she been an upstart to begin with, but she also stood at the height of the nation, one set of words of hers genuinely causing the Emperor to frown. At this moment, Li Zhisheng, Ji Xiao, and the rest of the Wan party were taking turns praising the fourth Prince, Zhu Youyuan, who had been born of Consort Shao.
Most important to this was that Consort Wan had said something provoking to the Emperor, that the Crown Prince was young, yet understood how to fish for commendations, deliberately make friends with major officials, and have them spread his good reputation outside, thus allowing him to gather up a batch of outside officials. Those people had to be thinking of wealth as far as their eyes could see, and wanted to praise the Crown Prince so that they could later grab the merit of supporting a dragon — if such continued, His Majesty’s power might be in trouble.
Clearly, she wouldn’t have been able to think up all that by herself. There had to be someone talented at her side giving her ideas.
Regardless of how soft Chenghua was, he was still an Emperor, and would not tolerate others touching his sore spot, which was the country’s throne. Whoever was giving the Consort ideas had happened to grab onto that idea, then prod the Emperor’s heart.
After as much had been said, the Emperor had gradually wavered, becoming dissatisfied with the Prince. Then setting his sights upon the current Court, those upright officials who had dared to speak out had all been sent elsewhere. The rights to speak were now grasped by Wan An’s group.
Amongst the Solons, Liu Xu supported the Crown Prince and could have said something as the Emperor’s teacher, but he only had himself, and was unwilling to offend Wan An too much, making his own actions limited.
The enemy was strong, while they were weak. The Crown Prince’s position was teetering on the brink. In the opinions of those that hoped to see the Crown Prince ascend someday, this was certainly not good news.
After listening to all of that, Tang Fan sighed. “What could I do about that? You really take me for Zhuge Liang, eh?”
“You’re not Zhuge Liang, but you always have a lot of ideas. There has to be a way to dispel the Emperor’s suspicions. If things keep going like this otherwise, the Crown Prince really will get abolished!”
Tang Fan peered at him. “What I’m not sure of is when you and the Prince ever became this close. You even ran off on a special incognito trip here… is there someone that wants you to help think up a way out?”
Wang Zhi didn’t deny this. “Yes, there is someone in the palace that entrusted me with this. There are very few people nowadays that can help the Prince speak, and His Majesty hasn’t yet made a determination, meaning there’s still leeway for a comeback. It wouldn’t be convenient for me to speak before His Majesty, nor would it be even for the one that’s entrusted me. Once I thought things through, only you could help think up a solution.”
The other smiled painfully. “And what solution would I have? The Prince and I have just a one-sided connection, and now I don’t even have an official’s post. Why would His Majesty listen to me, an idler? Though, the one that entrusted you… is it Huai En?”
Wang Zhi hesitated for a moment. “Yes.”
“As far as I’m aware, Huai En is inferior in seniority to Liang Fang, but His Majesty has always trusted his word. Why would he not listen to him?”
Speaking of which, Wang Zhi and Huai En had never previously encroached upon each other’s turfs, yet this time around, the latter had told him to go ask for help. Presumably, Wang Zhi had listened to Tang Fan’s last bit of advice, and the two had since made a connection..
“Due to His Majesty’s banishment of those officials, Huai En had repeatedly pled for mercy for them, and ended up annoying him until he resented him some. Previously, there was a brown-noser that wanted to get into officialdom by offering up treasures; Huai En refused to pass the edict on, then tried to have Liu Xu, Yu Zijun, and others help him persuade the Emperor in the outer Court, only for all of them to be too afraid to, which tied Huai En’s hands. The end result was that he almost came to be hated by His Majesty, so now he doesn’t dare to speak on the Crown Prince’s behalf out of fear that he’d bungle things.” Wang Zhi huffed coldly. “I just happened to take the initiative to join up right then, and the old jerk thew this problem over to me to test whether I’m actually sincere about banking on the Crown Prince.”
With that, he looked at Tang Fan. “Speaking of which, you told me to befriend him, so you have a part in this! No matter what, you need to think something up for me!”
Who did I provoke to deserve this? I gave you a kind warning, and that just invited a huge headache for myself?
Seeing Tang Fan’s face full of helplessness, Wang Zhi suddenly grinned with secrecy. “If you can help the Prince get through this crisis, I’ll get an assurance that you can resume your original post.”
I’m really not in a rush for that. I’m carefree and too happy to mention right now, Tang Fan thought to himself, but, still, he had a good impression of the Prince. Had he never learned of this, he would have been fine, but since he already knew of it, if he ignored it, he would have a guilty conscience. “What is the situation now? Has His Majesty clearly unveiled his intent to abolish the Prince?”
“No, but when he went to pay respects to the Emperor, the latter refused to see him, saying that he should go and study with peace of mind.”
That really wasn’t good. Tang Fan creased his brow. “Are there any officials in Court speaking for the Prince? How about his teachers? They wouldn’t just sit by and watch, right?”
“They’ve all gone to ask for mercy, but it’s been no use. Purportedly, after they left His Majesty’s side, he had already been softening up and planning to forgive the Prince. Who knows who went up and slandered him to him, though, as His Majesty ended up calling the Prince over to reprimand him.”
“What about Dowager Zhou? She’s been kind to the Prince, and certainly wouldn’t want to see him be abolished.”
“The Dowager has been ailing and bedridden recently. She doesn’t know about any of this, and no one dares to trouble her with it… there’s no harm in me sharing something with you that’s rather disrespectful to say. The Dowager is honestly one to pick on the weak and the fear the strong, so she’s afraid of the Noble Consort.”
Tang Fan had heard as much before, too. Consort Wan had been selected by Dowager Sun, the paternal grandmother of the current Emperor, to attend to and protect Chenghua. In Chenghua’s most difficult years of being put under house arrest by his uncle, it had been Lady Wan that had been with him to pass them, not his mother.
Thus, even though Chenghua was very filial towards his mother, Dowager Zhou always had something of a guilty conscience, which gave her insufficient confidence when facing Consort Wan. Furthermore, the latter was said to be so vicious, that even the Dowager had some fear of her; back when the Emperor had abolished the Empress, Dowager Zhou had never been able to contradict that unto the end. Despite her love for her grandson, there was only so much she could do.
Thinking a layer deeper about that, no matter which son of the Emperor was established as the Crown Prince, they would all be her grandsons. There would be absolutely no sense in not being filial to one’s grandmother, so why would she have a falling out with her son over the Crown Prince?
But, that was all nothing more than gossip. This was not the time to examine it in detail.
Upon hearing that the Dowager was a no-go, Tang Fan shook his head helplessly. “You’ve placed too much value on me. So many people haven’t been able to find a solution, so how could I? I don’t like to see the Prince in trouble, but the issue here is that my words mean too little. I can’t help.”
Wang Zhi was a bit disappointed. As Tang Fan had helped him make several plans before and each time had born results, he had thereafter listened to him by forging a good relationship with Huai En. He had been hoping that this time, he would be able to think up a method that no one else could. If the Crown Prince could get out of this disaster, his credits would be plain to see…
Alas, reality had proved that he had just been too greedy.
“There is another way,” Tang Fan said hesitantly, “but it’s not really a way…”
After his disappointment, hope greeted Wang Zhi again. “What’s a grown man hemming and hawing for? Can’t you be more straightforward?!” he raged.
“First, have the Crown Prince try to meet with the Emperor alone. Then, have him apologize to His Majesty.”
“What comes after?”
“Nothing. That’s it.”
“…What kind of solution is that?! If apologies worked, why are there still so many twists and turns?”
Tang Fan spread out his hands. “I haven’t met His Majesty and don’t know him well, but he’s certainly not a tyrant. That stems from the fact that all these years, very few criminalized officials have been beheaded along with their whole families, getting exiled at worst. This means he definitely isn’t fond of murder. A monarch like that is actually quite good at sympathizing. Beyond that, the Crown Prince is his son that he had been hoping for for years, as well as the heir apparent; it stands to reason that His Majesty cannot be too cold-blooded and unfeeling towards him. It’s therefore a certainty that there’s someone at His Majesty’s side making trouble and causing him to repeatedly misunderstand the Prince.”
Wang Zhi’s heart jumped. He finally heard a bit of a hint. “Go on.”
“That’s why, instead of all of you intercepting for him, it would be better for the Prince to go alone. What knots of the heart cannot be untied between a father and son? The Prince is only ten, and not actually wanting to usurp the throne. His Majesty has no reason at all to not forgive him. The Prince’s private establishment of an incense table hadn’t conformed to standards, so he only needs to honestly apologize about it, then place everything on the reasoning of filial piety. That will make His Majesty think that a Prince that could be so filial to his deceased mother will certainly be a compassionate ruler in the future, and all the more unlikely to ever rebel.”
“That’s actually an acceptable idea,” Wang Zhi said thoughtfully.
“…I was just speaking casually. I gave the idea, so you keep the credit. If you don’t make me into a scapegoat, I’ll thank the Heavens and the Earth.”
Wang Zhi snorted out a laugh. “Am I someone like that? Okay, no more gossip. In a few days’ time, I’m leaving for the Great Bend, and I don’t know when we’ll meet again. Paint a picture for me.”
Tang Fan frowned. “Didn’t I tell you before not to stay so far away?”
“Easier said than done. The battle of the Great Bend isn’t yet done; it’s only because there’s a Deputy Supervisor on the front lines that I could make a trip back in the name of something going on with the Western Depot. I’ll have to return, soon. Even if I want to be done with it, I’ll still have to wait until this battle is over, and if I wasn’t here to help speak for it, the Court would have otherwise summoned Wang Yue and the rest back already. As you’re also aware, His Majesty currently has no plans for war.”
That was natural. The Emperor wanted to dabble in magic and construct palaces, while war was pretty expensive. He was definitely thinking that instead of using money for battle, it would be better to leave it for himself to worship the gods with.
Tang Fan sighed, not saying much more on it, just cupping his hands. “The frontlines are treacherous. I do hope you’ll look after yourself, Eunuch Wang.”
Wang Zhi waved him off. “Alright, no nonsense! Why should manly men act like children?! I’ve already had someone prepare the ink and paper. There isn’t much time, so hurry up and paint! Once you’re done, I’ll have someone mount it!”
Tang Fan had a head full of fog. “Why are you suddenly asking me to paint?”
“If I said that I admire you and want to bring a painting back so that I can see it and think of you every day, would you believe me?” Wang Zhi said impatiently.
Eunuch Wang noticed that the corner of the other’s mouth was twitching from that garbage, so he graciously told the truth. “If I said that the painting might be able to help you get restored to your post, would you believe that?”
Tang Fan smiled. “That’s a more credible explanation. If it had been that original reason, I’d probably paint for you using my toes so that you’d feel sick whenever you think of me.”
“Screw you!” Wang Zhi glared. “Quibble less! Hurry up, time is ticking! The painting doesn’t need exquisite craftsmanship, its concept is top priority! Mountains, waters, flora, and birds would be best — but you mustn’t paint any sort of red plums approaching snow, or chrysanthemums defying frost!”
That was a very strange-sounding request, but he made it clear that he wasn’t going to tell him why. Tang Fan couldn’t ask after it, but even if the other wouldn’t state it clearly, he knew that it wouldn’t be anything terrible, anyways. “If you want all that, I still have some older works back at the capital.”
Wang Zhi shook his head. “Those won’t do. You’d be able to tell at a glance that they’re previous ones. I want a current painting.”
Tang Fan had an understanding. “Let me think about it, then. I have nothing ready on such short notice.”
“You only have an incense stick’s worth of time. I’m going back to the capital later, so you have to give it to me.”
Tang Fan smiled bitterly, shook his head, and didn’t wrangle with him, striding up before the desk. On its surface was indeed long-prepared ink and pigments, with even the painting paper being top-notch.
He closed his eyes in thought for a moment, gradually outlined a fully-developed likeness in his mind, then opened them back up, grabbed a brush, dipped it in the ink, and began to work.
An incense stick’s worth had been claimed, and that was truthfully far from enough, but Tang Fan’s brush flowed naturally. He had a look of utter concentration; Wang Zhi didn’t pressure him.
It wasn’t until two quarters of an hour had passed after the incense had burned out that Tang Fan let out a long exhale. His work was completed.
Wang Zhi came in for a look, then caught sight of a lush bunch of wisterias drooping down on the white paper, a chicken prancing about beneath them. Not far away, a hen was looking up and back at it — within the overflowing life, there appeared to be an inexhaustible sense of parental feelings.
“Great!” He couldn’t help but exclaim. Even though he hadn’t stated anything clearly, he had believed that with Tang Fan’s smarts, he definitely must have heard the tune he had been plucking out. This painting was, as had been expected, more than satisfactory.
Despite the time crunch having made the painting slightly crude and not entirely great, it had a deep meaning inside of it. Making a special trip here to have him paint on the spot had not been in vain.
At this moment, the sound of hurried footsteps was heard outside, and the two’s conversation ceased. Wang Zhi frowned. “Who’s outside? Didn’t I say that no one is to come and disturb me?”
“It’s me, Don.” Surprisingly, it was Yan Li’s voice.
“Come in,” Tang Fan said.
Yan Li pushed open the door. “Don, Young Lord He has been beaten! Your sister wants you to head back as soon as you can!”
The He’s had a thriving population; Patriarch He had many grandchildren, but the only one capable of being called ‘Young Lord’ by Yan Li was He Cheng.
“What’s wrong?” Tang Fan naturally had to ask. “Who dared to hit Qilang so brazenly? Why didn’t my sister and brother-in-law stop it?”
Yan Li smiled bitterly. “Your brother-in-law is the one beating him.”
Whenever the He’s went to a party, their younger generation naturally followed. Many others had brought their families along, too, so children of the same age groups could have fun together.
Even though seven-year-olds of different genders weren’t to be seated together, it wasn’t actually possible to be so strict. In the He family, there were several children of He Cheng’s age group, among them being He Xuan and Lady Wei’s two children, one boy and one girl, each his cousins that were a year or two younger than him. There were also the grandchildren of Patriarch He’s brothers, some of whom were older than He Cheng, but the majority of which were six or seven years old.
Children would still form groups amongst themselves; since the words of children specially held no tact, what they said was all the more hurtful. Perhaps because of what they had heard from their elders a lot getting added onto He Cheng’s stuffy personality, no one played with him, isolating him.
The cause of today’s incident was that a group of children had met up in the rear courtyard to play, but hadn’t called out for He Cheng. He, ultimately getting a little envious, had secretly followed after them.
Wei Ce’s youngest daughter and Lady Wei’s little sister, Wei Zhuniang, was very pretty. Whenever the tiny ones played together, the boys would always cluster themselves around her, and today had been no exception. She had said that she wanted flowers to make a crown with, and also that she wanted a bird as a pet, so a group of boys had scrambled off with a boom to go pick flowers and nab birds for her. That had made the other several girls’ eyes’ go abnormally red from jealousy, He Cheng’s cousin included.
The girls had had a falling out with Wei Zhuniang, isolating her like they had isolated He Cheng, then had held each others’ hands as they left to play elsewhere, thus ignoring her. She had wanted to follow, but had felt it too awkward, so she had only been able to angrily sit to the side and sulk.
At his age, He Cheng had an eye to appreciate beauty and ugliness; he had liked this pretty little girl, too, so he had drummed up his courage to go up and say hi to her. Unfortunately, she hadn’t wanted to pay attention to him, and also said that his dad was a useless, impoverished County Honorate. The two had had a big fight, with He Cheng running away in anger and grief.
Things up until that point had just been a children’s farce, something many had experienced as kids. There’d been nothing special about it.
However, shortly after He Cheng had left, he had been found by the He’s, then informed that Wei Zhuniang had died — she had fallen into a well and drowned, and the few girls that had just abandoned Wei Zhuniang had all said that they had heard the two fighting.
As soon as one heard this, they would hence suspect that He Cheng had gotten so angry, he had accidentally pushed Wei Zhuniang into the well, then quickly fled for fear of punishment.
Looking on as the gazes used towards his son became more and more bizarre, He Lin, someone who loved his reputation, couldn’t stand it. As his son was dazedly unable to justify himself, he got angry, then began to beat him in front of everyone.
Tang Yu hadn’t expected that such a calamity would happen at a one-month party. By the time she had heard the news and just come over, He Cheng had suffered many hits. He Lin hadn’t been merciful in the least, even having Wei servants get clubs and come beat the boy himself.
She hadn’t been able to stop it — it had been Patriarch He that had stepped forward to stop He Lin.
Tang Fan’s brows were knit hard hearing all this. In particular, when he heard that He Lin had beaten He Cheng in front of everyone, his face immediately went pale. “What’s happening now? Are they back at the He’s?”
Yan Li shook his head. “Not when I left. They’re still at the Wei’s. Purportedly, the Wei’s have already reported to the authorities, and Magistrate Weng came over in person to investigate. Should we handle this, Don?”
The reason why he had asked was that fathers had a right to beat their sons in this day and age. Even if a father accidentally killed his son, he would be faultless, but sons killing their fathers would be executed.
In other words, He Cheng was a He, while Tang Fan’s surname was Tang. Despite being his uncle, if he wanted to handle this, he might have to have a falling out with the He’s.
Sui Zhou had made Yan Li and the other Guard accompany Tang Fan to protect him, so Yan Li wasn’t afraid of causing a huge ruckus — he had simply thought to ask how big of a ruckus Tang Fan wanted to make. He already had a good idea in his mind, though.
“Yes! Of course we should!” Tang Fan answered, serious, then looked towards Wang Zhi. “As this is so, shall we part ways?”
Yan Li noticed Wang Zhi, too; as the latter didn’t have his beard disguise on, he recognized him, looking at the Chief Eunuch of the Western Depot in surprise. He couldn’t comprehend any reason for him to suddenly run over here from the capital.
Wang Zhi didn’t look back at him, however, merely giving a slight nod towards Tang Fan.
The latter cupped his hand at him, not saying much else, then turned and quickly left with Yan Li to go put out the fire at the Wei’s.
At this moment, the Wei family was currently a bundle of chaos. A perfectly good one-month party had turned into a wretched spectacle that many guests had successively departed from, while a good deal of others remained to watch. The host, Wei Ce’s face was so overcast, it was about to drip water, while his wife, Lady Chai, was busy instructing people to see the guests off, lest the scene get even more chaotic.
Apart from his eldest daughter, Lady Wei, Wei Ce had four others, all born of concubines. The oldest of those was in her teens and had already married off, while the youngest was six, the recently-dead Wei Zhuniang. She had been bright, and had inherited her mother’s looks; despite Wei Ce’s wholehearted hope for a son, that hadn’t prevented him from doting on his youngest daughter.
What a shame it was that that beloved little girl was now lying next to the well she had just been fished out of, drenched and without life.
Her mother was prostrate beside her, wailing.
A large group of people stood in the courtyard, including Magistrate Weng, the He’s, the Wei’s, and a good amount of dignified gentry from town.
There was He Cheng, too, kneeling in the center, both cheeks swollen up. Tang Yu was embracing her son, her tears streaming down.
Wei Ce had a pale face, his anger unconcealed as he cupped his hands towards Patriarch He. “I dare to ask you… my daughter has been married into the He’s for over ten years. Has she ever committed any violations of her womanly duties?”
Patriarch He wasn’t sure what he was trying to say. “No.”
“Then have I ever wielded the He’s reputation to swindle and act rashly to others?”
“Also no,” Patriarch He answered, voice unhurried. “Our families have been bound by marriage for over a decade, and we’ve gotten along rather harmoniously. Every time bridges are build and roads are laid, the Wei’s have done their share, which is truly admirable. For us He’s to have such in-laws is truly a blessing.”
“Since that’s so, now that the evidence is solid, please don’t obstruct me from getting justice for my daughter!” Wei Ce raged.
He glared dead at He Cheng, loathing to the core this murderer that had likely killed his daughter. Were it not for his apprehensions about Magistrate Weng and the He’s being on the premises, he would practically be rushing up to beat him himself.
“The truth is not yet known as of right now; everything must be investigated by the Magistrate,” Patriarch He answered solemnly. “My He family has been clean for generations. If our junior truly is of unacceptable behavior, there is no need to for you to act, as this old gent will be the first to not forgive him.”
Magistrate Weng sighed. “Let’s hear what Qilang has to say, before anything else.”
“Unfilial child!” He Lin shouted at He Cheng. “Tell us everything from start to finish, now!”
Everyone’s eyes burned as they fell upon He Cheng.
He was a small child — when would he have ever seen such a war before? He had long gone entirely dumbstruck due to seeing his father’s vicious and malevolent face, furthermore. All he could do was cling tightly to his mother, continuously shrinking into her arms. “I didn’t push her! I didn’t!”
Tang Yu wiped his tears away, pressed down on his shoulders to prevent him from fleeing, and looked directly into his eyes. “Qilang, tell your mother. Did you fight with your fourth aunt of the Wei’s before?”
Even though Wei Zhuniang was one year younger than He Cheng, because she was Lady Wei’s little sister, and Lady Wei was his aunt from her marriage to He Xuan, the two had a relationship of a senior and junior.
He Cheng hesitated for a long while, then nodded timidly.
“Where did you go after the fight?”
He Cheng glanced at his father, then lowered his head, not daring to speak.
He Lin got unbelievably angry seeing that. He had been conceited for half of his life, only for his weapon to break and his body to sink into the sands of scholarly honor; with not a smidgen of external glory remaining, the only thing left that could safeguard his reputation was his clean name as a literati. Now that He Cheng had caused him a complete loss of face and the He’s would likely bear the infamy of this degenerate descendant, flames immediately shot three zhang off of He Lin. He charged straight forwards, roughly pulled He Cheng out of Tang Yu’s arms, then raised the rod in his hand, about to strike it down heavily.
“No!” Tang Yu didn’t have time to stop him, only able to hug the child, shielding him with her own body.
Along with someone’s interrupting shout, He Lin felt a black shadow hack down on top of his head, his arm going numb immediately afterwards. Before he could figure out what had happened, he was shoved backwards.
A couple cries of pain sounded out as the one standing behind He Lin suffered as well, getting crushed underneath him. Everyone took a closer look, discovering that the unlucky effected devil was He Xuan.
The two brothers tumbled into a ball, then got up in a flurry of limbs via the help of others. Getting humiliated in front of people had made He Lin’s face flush red from anger, both ashamed and furious.
Without waiting for them to start with their reprimands, Tang Fan strode over, followed after by Qian San’r and Gongsun Yan.
Meanwhile, Yan Li, who had just kicked He Lin, floated over to the side, casting the wooden rod he had seized from He Lin down, which happened to hit He Lin himself. The look on the latter’s face was distorted by the moderate strength; that had clearly smarted.
“Is this how you instruct your subordinates, brother-in-law?!” he fumed. “How can you not know etiquette?!”
He hadn’t heard Patriarch He’s analysis from before, so he naturally had no idea of Yan Li’s identity as a Brocade Guard.
Yan Li clapped his hands, smiling frostily. “You’ve got guts. This guy’s been in the Northern Bastion Office for years, and I’ve never seen anyone dare to speak like that to a Brocade Guard before!”
The second he admitted his identity, everyone around was shocked.
The He’s had guessed as much before, but guesses and facts were two completely different things. Now that this had been verified, their hearts were ill at ease.
Patriarch He alone, experienced in the world, remained calm. He cupped his hands at Yan Li. “I am unsure of what your esteemed name is. What position are you in the Guard?”
Yan Li cupped his hands back to him. “You are too humble. Yan Li, Gonfalon of the Northern Bastion Office.”
The Patriarch was slightly startled. He had thought that even if the other was a Guard, he would like be just an unnamed member, yet he was actually of Gonfalon status. Had Tang Fan committed such a horrible crime, that he needed one of these to monitor him?
Thinking of that, he steadied his mind, then made his tone as warm as he possibly could. “Sir Yan, please step to the side to speak with me.”
Unexpectedly, Yan Li acted like he didn’t understand him. “No need. We can just speak here.”
The Patriarch choked, obliged to say, “Prior to my retirement, I had something of a friendship with your Office’s Envoy Wan.”
“The Guard only listens to Envoy Yuan now, not Envoy Wan.”
Yan Li’s implication being that him wanting to fish for a friendship was useless, because he wasn’t one of Wan Tong’s, and wasn’t going to cash him out.
Truth be told, the Emperor had previously said that Wan Tong would be returning to take over the Brocade Guard, but the realization of the personnel transfer could not happen so quickly. Now that Yuan Bin had learned of the Emperor’s intent, he had just sent his first memorial for resigning into retirement. According to fashionable gameplay nowadays, regardless of whether the Emperor’s intent was true or false, he’d have to intentionally keep him around for a bit, not allowing Yuan Bin to resign until he had petitioned multiple times. As such, the Brocade Guard’s nominal leader was still Yuan Bin.
Patriarch He had never met someone as immune to any sort of persuasion as this, having no other option but to clarify himself. “No matter what, this is a family matter of ours. You must have some official business to have come here, Sir Yan, so please do not get involved. I apologize to you.”
Yan Li glanced at Tang Fan. Upon seeing the latter shake his head slightly, he ignored the Patriarch’s advice, directly walking to be behind Tang Fan.
This scenario, seen with Patriarch He’s eyes, caused waves to suddenly arise in his heart. Had he guessed wrong? Had the Guards not come to monitor Tang Fan at all?
But if they weren’t on monitoring duty, why would they follow someone that had been dismissed here?
Thus, the aged and learned Patriarch He was shortly dumbstruck.
The rest of the He’s didn’t think the same, especially not He Lin, who had just been kicked and smacked with a rod. Seeing that his brother-in-law’s companions were putting on such a fierce display, he had harsh anger in his heart. “Runqing, what is the meaning of this?!” he wrathfully demanded.
Tang Fan was holding in his anger, as well, but the angrier he got, the more tranquil he looked on his surface. “There is no other meaning to this than to prevent you from beating your son to death. Qilang is my nephew, too!”
“His surname is He, not Tang. I’m his father, so I can beat him as I like! It’s no one else’s place to make thoughtless remarks! Even if I beat him to death, the Great Ming Code wouldn’t find me guilty! Moreover, the little bastard pushed someone down a well! I should beat him to death, lest he be a disgrace to the outside world!”
Tang Fan sneered. “Tremendously awe-inspiring. You’re even quite familiar with the Code; how come I don’t see you passing the provincials?”
He Lin’s face quickly went red; not out of shame, but rage. The other had jabbed his sore spot in one sentence.
Tang Fan still didn’t plan to let him go, either. “You’ve wasted twenty years, unable to become a Provincial Honorate, to say nothing of a Palace one. That’s why you can only brandish your might against your wife and son, right? The truth isn’t had right now, you’re just saying Qilang is guilty! Are you a Magistrate, or a higher official of the Ministry of Justice? What right do you have to decide that he is? If you have the ability to, beat him, then — let the whole world see that not only do you have no accomplishments, but you’re now even framing your own son to save face!”
Sir Tang was normally a modest gentleman that didn’t start fighting with anyone easily. Even when getting called a fooltot by Eunuch Wang, he would just touch his nose, smile, and let it be.
However, gentlemen had things they would do, and things they would not. Just because he didn’t scold people didn’t mean he would never scold anyone — it just depended on whether he felt they were worthy of it or not.
He Lin momentarily couldn’t find the words to answer. For someone as reputation-loving as him, getting accused like so by Tang Fan made his complexion go from red to green, to green to white, his chest heaving repeatedly, fury about to attack his heart.
The translator says: “the Crown Prince hates me because I killed his mom” well have you tried not killing people’s moms??? have you tried that??????
“my reputation is ruined” have you tried not beating your son, you garbage human????? heard not doing that does wonders!!!